The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hanging out with your kid, obviously. Best make this week’s jaunt to the world of videogame worlds and videos a quick one, then.

Leigh Alexander’s Lo-Fi Let’s Play, once syndicated here at RPS, has returned as a Patreon-funded series. Each episode features an old adventure game. No, not LucasArts or Sierra stuff – older and more obscure. The new episode looks at Escape From Rungistan.

At PC Gamer, Steven Messner wrote about Ultima Online in celebration of its 19th birthday, and highlighted some of the stories which have emerged from it during its lifetime.

Ultima Online turned 19 today and despite being so outdated, few PC games inspire nostalgia quite like Richard ‘Lord British’ Garriott’s first MMO. Unlike most modern MMOs—ignoring EVE Online of course—Ultima Online is unique because it’s the closest thing to a Dungeons and Dragons campaign gone massively multiplayer. It’s sometimes bizarre, always hectic, and wonderfully intimate. Without all the modern luxuries of global chat or automated trade systems, players had to interact with each other in ways that gave rise to friendships, rivalries, and devastating betrayals. Oh yeah, Ultima Online was hardcore as hell too. Griefing and player killing were the laws of the land, and death wasn’t just a slap on the wrist—you could lose everything.

This is a long – extremely long – look at Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts and (spoilers?) Derek Smart. I confess I have not read all of it but there were details in there that I didn’t already know about both designers, and found interesting as a result.

This might sound strange, considering he was the one hyping it in the press a few years earlier, promising to blow Wing Commander out of the water. But in reality, his calculations for how long it would actually take to finish the game had been so many lightyears off that he now faced the risk of being associated with a game no one in their right mind would consider a fully playable space sim. Take-Two was about to charge full price for what constituted half a game, if that. On September 27th, 1996, he took stock of the situation and chose to sign a contract granting Take-Two complete rights to the game. Then he got into his car and cruised along the east coast all the way home to the balmy weather of Florida.

I enjoyed this look at a Deus Ex Mankind Divided quest which everyone loves but I missed entirely.

The latest Donlan.

Here’s a question: What do you do in Mario?

Good question. I love Mario! In Mario you run and jump and defeat enemies. You explore. You get from left to right. You sometimes climb flagpoles. If it’s Mario 2 you pick and throw vegetables. If it’s Super Mario World, you get to knock about on a dinosaur. If it’s Mario Galaxy you dropkick meteors into the heart of a distant sun. Mario is pretty good when it comes to doing things. It excels at getting things done. It has purity, and it also has range

FIFA 17 came out this past week. I’m playing and being disappointed by it. Luis Miguel Echegaray at The Guardian wrote about how the series helped sell soccer to the US“, and it’s a good read.

For Kelvin Garcia, growing up in a Dominican family from New York City meant two sports took priority. “As a Latino kid in the Bronx, all I ever played was basketball and baseball,” says Garcia, who now lives in Texas. As a boy, soccer was barely on Garcia’s radar. He remembers working at a sports camp with European counselors during the 2010 World Cup and wondering what the excitement was about. As a basketball fan, he was more interested in whether LeBron was going to the Knicks.

Nowadays, Garcia cannot go a day without talking about his love for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and their title chances.

Told you this was a quick one. I didn’t link it when I was listening to it most, so here’s Sia’s video for The Greatest, which I am still watching.

From this site

37 Comments

  1. kwyjibo says:

    Here’s a Washington Post article on under-employment, blaming it on video games.

    link to washingtonpost.com

    And here’s a response.

    link to cepr.net

    • welverin says:

      Do both of those articles operate from the position that women don’t play video games?

      • Thurgret says:

        The first at least acknowledges their existence, and that seems to be it.

      • gwop_the_derailer says:

        The second article humors the first article’s premise, only to argue that there has been a rise in unemployment across all demographics, regardless of how you divide them.

      • invitro says:

        The first partly operates from the fact that women spend only a tiny fraction of the hours per week on video games as men do.

    • Thurgret says:

      That first article has an agenda, and I guess that’s diverting blame away from the people who have made it so generally rotten to be a young jobseeker.

      Anecdotally, I play games and am gainfully employed. My friends who play games are gainfully employed. I live in Europe, though, so am not the subject of that article anyway.

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        corinoco says:

        Correlation does not imply causation. The drop in young male employment could also be to the lack of opportunities to be farriers, pirates, or musketeers.

        Also game playing employed person. Also think it’s pretty harsh to treat your entire population as a graph of economic ‘resources’ rather tha, you know, people.

    • ROMhack2 says:

      Those whacky Americans. What ever will they do next?

    • invitro says:

      This is a good article. Instead of wasting time telling the “correlation doesn’t imply causation” idiot below why he’s wrong, here’s a factual snippet: “Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to the study, which is based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys. Before the recession, from 2004 to 2007, young, unemployed men without college degrees were spending 3.4 hours per week playing video games. By 2011 to 2014, that time had shot up to 8.6 hours per week on average.”

      Obviously the low-intelligence people here hate the message of the article, and will spend a lot of time desperately claiming that the things it says (but more the things it doesn’t say) are lies.

      • Thurgret says:

        The video game industry is bigger than Hollywood. Games have been steadily improving in quality and accessibility over the years. I could certainly see how gaming might take up more of people’s leisure time– time which would have been spent engaged in some other non-work activity if not gaming.

        What you’re saying, though, is that people aren’t working because they would rather play video games, and you’re basing it off an article which in turn is largely based off a paper that has not even been submitted to a journal for peer review (much less a respectable journal). It’s quite a bold assertion, considering how flimsy its basis is, and your argumentum ad hominem is not helping your position.

        • draglikepull says:

          I don’t really buy the argument that young men are working less because of video games, but I think you’re over-simplifying the real argument, which goes like this:

          There’s a concept in economics called the “reservation wage”, which is the minimum amount of money someone must be offered before they accept a job. That amount differs for every person (and possibly every job) for a wide variety of reasons.

          Essentially, when you have the opportunity to take Job X for $Y a year, you weigh that against how much you value the free time you’d be giving up to take that job. If $Y turns out to be less than the value you give to the time you’d be giving up, you turn down the job.

          Video games, so the argument goes, have increased the perceived value of that free time. It’s more fun to play video games than whatever unemployed people might have done with their time in the past.

          So the argument isn’t so much “young men would rather play games than work”, it’s that video games have increased the value of free time such that the reservation wage for low-skilled work has risen as well. This doesn’t necessarily have to read as “some young men are lazy”. It can also be interpreted as “companies are not offering sufficient wages to attract new employees.”

          I don’t really buy that this is a particularly important force on the level of the full working population, but it is a more complex argument than just saying “video games make young men too lazy to work.”

          • Chairman_Meow says:

            This. As someone with a graduate degree in a related field, this is the more correct way of interpreting this data.

          • BooleanBob says:

            So more young men are proportionally choosing to be relatively poorer and play vidja all day over working a crappy low wage job, than historically they were choosing being relatively poorer and watching day time telly/hanging around on street corners all day over working a crappy low wage job?

            I can buy that. To me games seem more appealing than the alternatives after all, although I’m on a gaming website so maybe there’s some bias.

            I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if there were other contributors to the phenomenon. These might include lower wages in real terms for low skilled jobs, as you said, but also an increase in the opportunity of declining work in the first place, due to a rising trend of young adults choosing (or not having the choice not to) to live with their parents.

          • invitro says:

            ‘So the argument isn’t so much “young men would rather play games than work”, it’s that video games have increased the value of free time such that the reservation wage for low-skilled work has risen as well.’ — In other words, young men would rather play video games than work.

          • invitro says:

            ‘So the argument isn’t so much “young men would rather play games than work”, it’s that video games have increased the value of free time such that the reservation wage for low-skilled work has risen as well. This doesn’t necessarily have to read as “some young men are lazy”.’ — Well, “lazy” means “unwilling to work”. So if young men are indeed choosing to play video games instead of work, it does indeed mean that young men have gotten lazier, in a factual sense.

          • Josh W says:

            The problem there is that there are a lot of economic models out there that do not recognise the existence of involuntary unemployment.

            Talking about the time value of money in the context of modern day unemployment is a bit like talking about the speed of a car in terms of the ease of fitting a roof rack.

            You could say that cars that have roof racks will tend to be slower than ones without, all else being equal, due to air resistance, but more important is the car engine, the overall aerodynamics etc.

            And so similarly, the time value of money only deals with the tiny proportion of people who can get as many hours as they want, or get a specific number of hours at the wage they want etc; obviously most people will get more or less hours than they want – because we have a relatively standard working day – at wages that are for the most part dictated to them. So if the marginal effect of changes to the time value of money is less than the steps/jumps available in the actual job market, then people will often be either slightly more or slightly less dissatisfied, but stay in exactly the same place.

            There’s also the problem of the inevitable non-zero labour market friction in the real world; people who say “Man, I wish I had a job, but it’s so hard to get one”.

            If people are making their leisure choices conditional on their labour market options, and not the other way around – playing games because they have free time, and it’s one of the best ways to spend it – then the model is irrelevant.

            Now beyond the overly simple economics assuming frictionless labour markets, there’s a deeper question; do computer games change the nature of market friction? An example given in the article was someone enjoying computer games rather than putting all their time into searching for jobs.

            There’s two problems there, it’s well known that there are non-linear relationships between productivity and labour time, after a certain point spending too much time on a project leads to negative marginal productivity, either through mistakes that have to be rectified, or through reducing the persons physical and mental resources such that they reduce in effectiveness.

            A model that wanted to analyse the effect of games on the job market should consider firstly whether market friction has increased given the recession – is it harder to find a job than it was – and also whether time spent on games contributes to or detracts from time spent looking for jobs or training, and where the optimum share lies.

            Personally, I always used to find it useful, so long as I got at least 3 hours of job searching done every two days, and at least 12 hours a week, and spent time with my friends in person. Job searching is a task with little to know obvious progress, mixed with bursts of sudden action, and playing games means you can retain a sense of forward momentum, you can see yourself “getting things done”, whether it’s in the tickbox sense of Ubisoft map games, or progressing through solving puzzles, or even bashing your head against a brick wall in dark souls or steven’s sausage-roll, with the knowledge that eventually it will be possible, you can engage with difficulties that are designed to be solved.

            It’s a way to spend your time actively, not passively, using your mind and working on problems and challenges regardless of the sometimes apparently insoluble nature of the world economy, and your place in it.

            And all of this is not even considering the possibility of low employment equilibria; situations in which there are fewer jobs because there are fewer jobs, (such as due to investment behaviour, or more interestingly due to social dynamics like the main employment industries shifting to models where it is easier to complete jobs with smaller numbers of overworked people than to hire new people, or greater possibilities for amateurs damaging the ability to charge for certain services), which has very little to do with playing video games, but might relate to making them.

        • invitro says:

          “What you’re saying, though, is that people aren’t working because they would rather play video games” — I didn’t say that at all, and I don’t think the article did, either. I don’t understand why you’re attributing this statement to me… are you under the impression that I wrote the article or something?

  2. shocked says:

    This was a nice article this week: Pixels and Voxels – the long answer (perhaps a bit more about game development)

  3. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    As we’re doing suggestions, I was wryly amused this week by that Tom Francis bloke’s account of what games get made if you put 20 or so game developers together in a cabin in the woods:
    link to pentadact.com
    Basically, they throw pinecones at each other a lot.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Philopoemen says:

    The Roberts/Smart article took me back to the late 90s, waiting with bated breath the next flame war between Smart and whoever on comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.strategic (Newsgroups…they were so good…).

    And its not really cyber-bullying if you literally just abuse everyone that disagrees with you.

  5. Flatley says:

    I’m liking the Roberts/Smart article — think I may even finish the whole thing — but I had to jump out and take issue with the characterization of Freelancer as “lacklustre.” Lacklustre!? Freelancer was great. The campaign was really interesting, and it even had a pretty decent semi-persistent (within a given server) multiplayer mode.

    It’s actually a really tough game to find these days, and while I have the old disc, I lost the key long ago, and my new laptop doesn’t have a disc drive regardless. I’d certainly buy it again if it ever pops up on GOG.

    • Premium User Badge

      corinoco says:

      Who needs ‘Eastenders’ when you’ve got the saga of Star Citizen to follow? Now with added Derek Smart! Disclosure: I bought Battlecruiser 3000AD at launch. Retail. Unironically. I still have it. I remember reading about (and chatting with) Derek and his plans for BC3K way back in the Usenet days. I recall it was rec.arts.games.space or maybe it was just crossposted. Derek always came across as a pretty nice guy, if a bit optimistic. Maybe it’s because I was studying Architecture at uni; you’re taught to have grandiose plans, and if you don’t have an optimistic outlook you won’t get far. The recent articles on Star Citizen have been fascinating; if anything because the games industry has a lot of similarities to architecture & building construction. Big projects, ego driven, lot of money, similar size teams (counting architects, engineers & builders) and makes me wonder if games companies will go that way some day (specialised tasks becoming seperate careers). I’ve worked in some architecture firms as big as CIG – but if they were run that way they wouldn’t survive! A major big-ego project can be done by a single shout-until-everyone-says-yes (think Zaha Hadid, bless her nicotine-soaked heart) architect, and be done well – but behind every big ego architect is a back office that runs like a Swiss watch, presided over by a group of fiercely efficient officer manager / senior project architects. It’s sort of the role I’m in now – cat herding. CIG would seem to have a lot of cats, no herders and an aging lion-tamer leading it. Chris Roberts should know that no-one wins a flame war with Derek Smart, and should either get some professional PR people or learn to be a bit less mouthy.

      Anyway it’s all good fun, and I’ll just keep having a ball in Elite Dangerous – the Star Citizen articles make for good reading on long supercruise runs!

      • Thurgret says:

        The Kotaku article from a week or two ago prompted me to go do some reading about what’s up with Star Citizen’s development, and that’s with me actually being quite enthused by the last alpha release despite having been skeptical since 2013 (and being a backer way back in 2012). Looks like by the end of 2014, they’d finally got their company structured properly – based on the structure used by the Manchester studio under Erin Roberts, who I guess acts as a counterbalance to his brother – and they’d moved everything in-house rather than contracting out development. Happily enough, they’ve also taken on a whole lot of former Crytek staff for their British and German offices.

        I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

      • Flatley says:

        I have not yet chosen a side in the great Space-Game War of the 2010’s. I really hope Star Citizen pans out, and will probably spend money on it if it does — on the assumption that this pay-to-win stuff doesn’t get too out of hand once the game is launched — but I am not particularly optimistic that everything will pan out for the better.

        Incidentally, my favorite part of the article, which went in depth on the extent to which the SC community closes itself off from criticism of any kind, were the comments at bottom from SC supporters attempting to refute the article’s criticisms via their ritual chants of “Derek Smart, Derek Smart, Derek Smar….”

  6. Jac says:

    The Deus Ex article is great but it still undersells how good that mission actually is.

    The environmental detail is absolutely stunning. The murder appears in the newspapers before you stumble across it. If you kill one of the suspects it appears in the newspaper as well. There’s so many other clues and misdirections like finding a bear head on the wall that matches evidence, which is only one explained if you look carefully at a rug in the eventual perpetrators apartment. You can also find emails from this woman on the police computer and the telescope part is genius.

    The stuff you find out through the doctor also has huge implications for another big mystery in the game relating to Jensen and whether he’s actually had the same thing done as well since you’ll start to pick up certain names and corporations that appear heavily in another questline and throughout the game.

    The fact that it’s completely missable too is hugely brave of the developers given how many people seem to think Mankind Divided is short. It definitely isn’t and I hope they keep their confidence in making future games the same way without signposts. Basically it’s great and if you missed it go play it!

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      I would have missed the mission entirely too, if the game hadn’t given me a reminder via Aria Argento.

      I made a hash of it the first time too, so I reloaded but still missed a few things even though I got a better resolution to the mission.

      My main problem was that I’d been to most of the locations prior to the side mission, since even the first time you’re in Prague you can go almost everywhere.

      The one mission I regret missing was the Church of the Machine God one, I must have missed something with that one. Might have to check a guide to see what I didn’t do, but that was a large area which I only saw when it was too late (full of police).

      • malkav11 says:

        You can do either the Church or the Property Bank, mutually exclusive. You probably did the Bank. (Which is the approved route for completionists since you can access the Church areas later, whereas there’s a locked off section of the Bank you can’t hit unless you’re on that mission.)

        • Premium User Badge

          Andy_Panthro says:

          Ah ok. I was a bit annoyed about that choice, because I felt like it really should have been possible to do both (a bit like another part of the game, where there’s also a choice but it is possible to do both).

          I did start a NG+ though, wasn’t sure if I was going to finish it but perhaps I will to do the opposite choice.

    • Zenicetus says:

      This side mission/mystery was the best part of the game for me, although it did have two fairly major flaws. The fact that it was the best, points how how poorly-written the rest of the game was.

      First, the fact that it had to be split up with a forced and unexplained pause. Without knowing it would continue, I thought it had ended when speaking with the police detective right at the break point. I was glad to see it pick up again later, but I don’t see why it was necessary to split it up like that. The “creep through the police” in the second part didn’t add anything.

      The second flaw was the boss fight. I missed whatever clues I was supposed to pick up for a kill phrase, and having to end it like that wasn’t the way I was expecting. It was also a typical dumb boss fight where the scene is littered with scripted objects and areas to take advantage of, where I feel like I’m fighting the game designer and not the enemy. I’m just not a fan of arena-style boss fights in general, and it was a shame to end such a compelling side story that way.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    I have made it through to the other side of that huge Star Citizen article! Long, but worth it I think.

    It’s such a crazy project, the more I hear about it the more I wonder if they’ll ever get something decent released. Other games have been overly optimistic, over hyped or whatever, but none have had people putting in so much cash. Some people have donated thousands of dollars, and I can’t imagine the game ever living up to that sort of expectation.

    It’s a shame that the article frames it as a fight between Roberts and Smart, because it does cloud the issue. The feud might make the story more entertaining, but the real issue for me is the vast cost and lengthy production which has yet to deliver what was promised. It shall be interesting to see what does get released, and in what condition, and when!

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      teije says:

      Some massive egos involved in this whole affair for sure. I hope we see something interesting out eventually, but the insane amount of scope creep and lack of project management present on this project worry me. It’s like the scope is expanding faster than the development is progressing, that’s a very dangerous approach.

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        Andy_Panthro says:

        Squadron 42 might be the tipping point, one way or another. If they produce a great game early in the next 6 months or so, they’ll start getting sceptical people back on side. If the release date keeps dragging on, and the final quality is poor, then things might start to fall apart.

        Sq42 is probably the only bit I’m interested in anyway, so I hope they can at least deliver on that. The persistent world stuff I don’t think will be my cup of tea, and if I wanted an FPS I’d play one of the hundreds available.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Sorry, where’s the “scope creep”? Star Citizen has been extremely ambitious from day one. It’s not like they’re adding random features as they think of them, you can go read the Kickstarter and see.

        • shocked says:

          Hmm, IIRC in the beginnning they wanted 500.000$ for a multiplayer space game, and then over time they added the stretchgoals like the FPS stuff, ships with a crew controlled by several people, carriers, complex destruction of ships, hundreds of systems, etc.

          If there hadn’t been scope creep, they would have released a game already.

      • ix says:

        I haven’t gotten through the article yet, but the parts I read were basically the two sections “How not to run a big software project” and “how not to run a multi-site development project”. Genuinely baffled that people with so many years of industry experience could make so many what appear to be freshman mistakes. It’s always easy criticising from the sidelines, I know, but chances of this ever approaching anything of the currently promised design really are slim to none.